Sue and Mo at Harris Beach

Sue and Mo at Harris Beach
Sue and Mo at Harris Beach

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

A Tribute to Judy, Bird Lady of Blogland

I heard the sad news the way we often hear news these days, a private post on Facebook from a friend saying, “Judy passed away”.  Oh no!  Judy had commented on my blog recently, slipping in her pithy statements and always making me smile.  We had missed visiting with her in Desert Hot Springs this past winter, when she said that she wasn’t feeling well and wouldn’t be able to join us.  Later in the spring she mentioned to me in a private post that she had sold her little motorhome, the one she drove back home to family in 2018.

We said, “Well then, we will see you in February when we come south”. A visit to Jojoba Hills was in order.  It was time to see Judy’s new park model.

Judy and Mo and I weren’t what you would call “close” friends, but we were definitely good friends who laughed a lot in each other’s company.  We were distant enough friends that her family had no clue to let us know that she was gone, or that she was sick.  In her typical style, if she was sick, she didn’t let us know, and we hadn’t heard from her in a bit of time, so the news was a shock.

Thinking of Judy, no longer in this world, made me really sad.  Most of the readers of my blog will remember Judy, and our visits with her over the years. Many readers of my blog were also readers of Judy’s blog, Travels with Emma. Judy was an amazing fountain of bird knowledge, with all her years volunteering in wildlife refuges throughout the country expanding her skills.  She shared that knowledge with an open heart, writing with humor and detail about her refuge experiences, and always willing to show folks around on her refuge of the year if they happened to pass nearby. 

I know most readers have their own memories of Judy’s blog, and their own stories, but I wanted to remember  Judy and repost some of the photos of the times we spent together.  Judy had many photos of birds in her blog, but only rarely had pictures of herself.

The orange highlights are links to the blogposts. 

From Judy’s Blog January 2014  The Oregonians Arrive

January 2014 Judy Finds the Spoonbills

Our first meeting at Judy’s campsite at Anahuac NWR

January 2015 Imperial NWR with Judy

Judy doing what she did best, sharing her knowledge of the wildlife refuge, this time at Imperial NWR

June 2015  Visiting Judy at Harris Beach

Judy met Mattie not long after we got her in 2015, called her a pipsqueak

Visiting Judy at Harris Beach in Brookings, Oregon, where she was in charge of explaining the bird life on Bird Island

August 2015 Bird Lady Visits Rocky Point

Judy stayed in our cabin at Rocky Point and we went birding, kayaking, and exploring in the Klamath Basin

January 2016 Visiting Judy in Jojoba Hills

We drove to Jojoba Hills one year to visit Judy at her new winter digs

February 2018 Hanging with Judy in February 2018

Our last visit with Judy was when she spent a few days with us at Catalina Spa and RV Park, and we went to the movies, went for some hikes, shared some good meals and had a great time.

We will miss you, Judy, your incredible knowledge of birds, your dry and witty sense of humor most of all.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

08-01-2019 Part 2 of our Watery July

Toward the end of July, on the 22nd, we loaded up the MoHo and headed north once again toward the Oregon Coast at Cannon Beach.  It is a long trip, and rather than tackle the coast route we simply drove north on the freeway, cut across the Willamette Valley at Salem, north on 47 to 26 and west to the ocean.  Took us about 7 hours to get there, but it was a truly gorgeous day.  

Part of the family, including Mo’s brothers and their wives were camping about 20 miles south near Nehalem, but Mo and I chose to stay at the Sea Ranch RV Park in Cannon Beach on Ecola Creek.  Another branch of the family, including Mo’s sister and nieces, and their kids were staying at a hotel right in downtown Cannon Beach and it was more convenient to be closer to them. 

Sea Ranch Resort is an interesting little park, quite small and tight.  We only saw 1 big rig there, and lots of variety in smaller rigs, tents, and vans.  During this most busy time of the year, the park was filled to the brim, and our site was tiny and tight.  We had to park the car sideways with the nose touching the MoHo to fit in the small space.

Still, there was enough privacy with big shrubs on two sides and it was totally dark and quiet at night.  We ended up paying just over $60. per night for this little piece of real estate about half a mile from the beach but certainly within walking distance of the town and the infamous Haystack Rock. It was expensive, and not at all fancy, but it was OK for what we needed for this trip, and we were only there for 3 nights.

That first evening we settled in, talked to family on the phone and found out where their hotel was located and what the plan was for the next day.  We thought it might be nice to drive downtown, find the hotel and check out Tolovana Beach Recreation Site where the family was to gather the next morning for an extreme low tide. 

We had no more walked a few hundred yards down the beach when we heard Susan calling us.  The family was out walking for the evening and saw people with a cute little dog, and laughed out loud when they realized it was us with Mattie.  We had a lovely walk before returning to our campsite and a much needed rest after a long day.

The next day dawned warm, sunny, and gorgeous, with no wind.  Something unheard of on the Oregon Coast, at least for us.  In fact the entire time we were at the beach the weather was very nearly perfect.  Just the right temperature, sunny skies, windless.  I don’t think I have ever experienced an Oregon Coastal beach as thick with people.  It was rather amazing to see.  Even the long time Oregon natives in Mo’s family couldn’t remember seeing this beach this crowded.

The low tide was wonderful, making it possible to walk directly out to Haystack Rock and view the birds and sea animals up close.  There were signs and ropes limiting some areas of access to protect the nesting birds, and other information signs about the types of mussels found on the exposed rocks.

The kids loved the experience, as did the dogs. Even though leashes are required on Cannon Beach, there were times when we were separate enough from the crowds that we could let the dogs run and play a bit.  Dan and Chere have a new puppy and she was learning how to behave and doing a great job.  Mattie, of course, was her little pushy self as she often is with big dogs, thinking they are all willing for her to jump on them and play rough.  It is always better when they are off leash together, but that is assuming we know that the other dog won’t get upset with her, and that was the case with Dan’s dog, at least most of the time. 

After our beautiful morning on the beach, Mo and I returned to the MoHo for lunch and a chance to rest up Mo’s knee which is still healing from the injury back in March when we were in Florida.  I decided to walk to town to meet with some of the family for a bit of shopping.

Rachel and Susan have both lived in Oregon and their most favorite treat at the beach is the famous salt water taffy that is sold in the iconic Bruce’s Candy Kitchen.  It was heaven for the kids and moms, but I only lasted a few minutes before retreating to the benches outside to escape the mayhem. I settled for a rather amazing ice cream treat instead, something with vanilla ice cream in a bowl with two shots of hot dark espresso poured over like a coffee float in a bowl.  Wow!  I’ll remember that one for awhile.

Returning home, we finished making the macaroni salad that we our contribution to the family dinner and headed south toward Nehalem and the Paradise Cove RV Park, where Brothers Dan and Don and their wives Chere and Wynn were camped. As always when the family gathers, there was lots of fun and laughter, and lots of little kids and dogs running around having a good time. The guys bar-be-qued a big batch of hot dogs and hamburgers to go with the assorted pot luck side dishes. 

We had a great time, and  the sun was setting as Mo and I piled back into the Tracker to travel the 20 miles or so back north.  On the return trip we were treated by a gorgeous coastal sunset and stopped to catch a few photos before continuing home to our MoHo.

Our sweet little dog was waiting patiently.  It is an amazing thing to be able to leave Mattie in the rig for extended periods of time without having to worry about her having an accident, getting into anything, or making a racket.  She may be a bit of a pain when meeting other dogs, but this one trait of hers endears her to us in ways you can’t imagine.

Wednesday was a day for individual activities for different people, with some going crabbing, some shopping, some traveling farther south to the cheese factory at Tillamook.  Mo and I opted for a new to us kayak at a new to us location.  We had seen Cullaby Lake on Google Maps, saw that it had two county parks and three places to launch, and that it looked fairly protected with a bit of interesting shoreline.  We definitely did NOT want to do anything even closely resembling a fast moving river with Mo’s painful rib still hurting from her injury on the Rogue.

On Google, the lake looked interesting, but surprisingly brown, and when we arrived, it was just as brown as it looked in the satellite photo.  The launch was easy, however, and while brown, the water wasn’t really dirty, just stained from tannins from the thick organic matter beneath and around the small landlocked lake.

We first paddled north, away from the homes that lined the southwestern side of the lake, then meandered around the entire perimeter.  We explored the small side bays, and as we returned along the western shoreline we enjoyed the views of the varied homes that overlooked the water. We were only out about 2 hours, a perfect mid day paddle. 

My favorite part were the gorgeous pink water lilies nymphaea odorata that were in full bloom in some of the more remote coves along the eastern shoreline.  It was like floating in a Monet painting.  Gorgeous blue skies, green forests, pink lilies, all made up for the somewhat brownish water.  After a bit, I didn’t even notice it except for the perfect reflections it made.

Home again for a bit of a rest before we gathered once again with family that evening for a farewell supper.  We decided on the Pelican Brewery Cannon Beach, and incredibly, at 4:30 in the afternoon, Rachel managed to get a table for 15 people without even a wait.  The food was delish, the service was great, but the food not so good that I have any idea of what I ate.  No doubt we had fish and chips, since we were on the coast and that is what we usually love to eat when near the sea.   It certainly wasn’t memorable, but the company was wonderful.

We said our goodbyes and made our way back home to the MoHo.  On the north side of town, north of Ecola Creek, is a beautiful quiet beach, with far fewer people than the famous Cannon Beach just to the south.  We took Mattie for a sunset walk, enjoying the sound of the ocean and watching the sun dip to the horizon, hoping perhaps for the famous green flash.  No green flash, but the sunset was a perfect ending for a lovely short trip to the northern Oregon Coast.

The next day part of the family went crabbing and enjoyed a great evening crab feed.  This is such a treat for Susan and her kids especially since they live in Colorado where fresh crab is nowhere to be found. Mo and I were unable to get 4 nights reservation at the late date we planned the trip, so we packed up and headed out by 8AM.

The trip home was basically uneventful, and this time we knew to simply travel east on 26, pick up 47 toward Salem, and took 99 all the way in to Corvallis, where we headed west toward the interstate.  I had a small delivery to make, and after sharing my project with the family, it was time to deliver Melody’s birthday quilt.  Melody works in Eugene, about 3 hours north of our home in Grants Pass, and we were passing right through Eugene on our way home.

I stopped in at Melody’s workplace, and was able to see her happy face when she saw her finished quilt.  I spent a year doing it, and once again, sent the quilt to Montana for Janna from Montana to quilt.  I was so lucky, since Janna says she is no longer quilting for others, so this was her last one to do.  She did a fabulous job, as always.  When Melody talked to me later, she said all the women in her office were so thrilled some had tears in their eyes, and most of them had quilt stories to share.  Such a lovely tradition, I hope it stays around forever.

We continued south through the gorgeous sunny, and now windy hot day toward Grants Pass.  As we approached Canyonville, I saw news of a newly started forest fire right along the freeway.  The Milepost 97 fire had started the previous evening, and by the time we reached Canyonville had grown to a few hundred acres.  We were lucky to get through because later the fire burned close to the interstate and closed the freeway for a time.

This year has been rather incredible for the lack of fires and this was the only major fire that affected us here in Grants Pass.  The fire was about 30 miles north as the crow flies, and we had smoke for a few days, but the firefighters were on it so fast and furious that they managed to contain the fire fairly quickly, even in the steep inaccessible terrain, and the fire was stopped at just over 13,000 acres.  The fire was caused by an illegal campfire. Rather amazing, and so grateful.

The rest of the summer since those days has been beyond incredible.  Hot but not overly so, with temperatures in the low to high 90’s and no triple digit days to contend with.  Last week we even got two days of soaking rains, almost unheard of in August in this part of Oregon where we can go 60 to 90 days without any measurable precipitation.  The skies are fresh and blue and gorgeous.  It is a summer to remember and I am glad that we have been around to enjoy it.

One of the reasons we call it Sunset House.  An evening view from our porch

Thursday, August 1, 2019

08-01-2019 A Watery July Part 1

Current Location: Sunset House on a clear non-smoky day at 94 Degrees F

First of all, and most important, did you notice that Non-Smoky Day introduction?  It is August, and hot, and for once, the skies are crystal clear.  There is a fire about 30 miles north, just west of I-5, and the last few days have been smoky.  Thankfully, the fire isn’t growing as fast as it did initially, and is about 25 percent contained, and the smoke is blowing somewhere else at the moment.

Last year at this time we were buried in thick, dark smoke that never gave us a break for more than 2 months.  It was a horrendous summer, and when this fire started everyone in this area sighed deeply, thinking it had started again.  But the weather isn’t as brutal, and so far, things have been a lot better than last year, or the year before that and the one before that.  Who knows how long it will last, but for the moment, it is incredibly gorgeous.

I hope it stays that way, since my lifetime friend Maryruth and her husband Gerald will be here to take possession of their new home on August 19.  They are leaving the California foothills to escape the fires that have plagued them in Oroville with repeated evacuations and fear.  We do get fires here in the surrounding forest, but they were careful to buy in an area that has plenty of defensible space, in the city limits, rather than in the urban forest interface. 

I didn’t realize just how much of our month of July revolved around water until I started the final processing of my photos.  Unlike the Lumix camera, which I shoot in RAW format, I shot lots of Galaxy S9+ photos this month, mostly because of the aforementioned focus on water.  Lots of it.  The phone photos don’t take a lot of processing, and even though they look nice most of the time, there are certain subjects which really do need a camera to look good.  Especially closeups of birds on a bright day with lots of water reflections.  Still, I love not having to pack the camera for a simple lake kayak, and especially love not having to pack it on a river raft trip!

Even though the “water” I am talking about for the month of July has to do with lakes, rivers, and oceans, it was also a watery July because we don’t yet have automatic sprinklers at Sunset House and I spend at least an hour or two each day watering “stuff”.  With a low producing well, I have to be especially careful  and pay attention to how much I am using, how full the cistern is,  and how much water is being produced by the RO unit.

I love the quiet time outside with the hose, and hand watering like this gives me a chance to visit each plant, each area in person and make sure I have an intimate connection with what is happening as the hot, dry summer days progress. The morning light coming through the trees illuminating the flowers is especially lovely from the bedroom windows.

We started the month with a lovely little simple July Fourth celebration with Mo and I and daughter Deborah and Grandson Matthew.  Instead of driving somewhere to find a lake, we decided to take a ten minute trip to the edge of town and the Whitehorse County Park on the banks of the Rogue River. 

In the past, we have shared this holiday in many different ways, including days at home with Bocci ball on the lawn.  In dry summer Grants Pass, extensive lawns are non existent, at least at home, and we thought it might be fun to pack up food and drink and head for a park for a real picnic.  It was great fun, and so easy, except we forgot to bring the Bocci Ball game. 

So much grass to enjoy, all green and all watered and level.  I sent photos to Melody and we all got excited about planning our bigger family celebration for next year at Whitehorse Park, even deciding that we could probably all camp there easily.  The park wasn’t crowded at all, and a perfect place to simply hang out with family. 

The short walk from the park down to the river was overgrown with blackberries but once there we enjoyed watching the Hellgate jetboats going by, and getting our feet wet while we looked for rocks and let Mattie play.

Until I remembered that on July 2, next year, Mo and I will be embarking on a cruise around Scotland on Oceania’s Nautica.  Oops.  Guess we will have to celebrate the holiday early.  Not a problem for any of us since fireworks are no longer a requirement for a fun day. 

This photo is from a year ago at Applegate Lake when the water was quite a bit higher.

A few days later, with more gorgeous clear summer skies to inspire us, Mo and I decided to take the boats out for a day of kayaking.  Initially we thought we might try a section of the Rogue River nearby that seemed innocuous enough, but a bit more research led us to think hard side lake kayaks on the Rogue might not be very smart. 

Instead we headed south toward the Applegate Reservoir, about an hour and 15 minutes from home.  Unlike last year when we kayaked that lake a bit earlier in the year, the water level was down enough that launching wasn’t very enticing. 

We drove to the southern end of the lake, looking for the park we had seen from the water last year and found a nice picnic table and for a $5 fee parked in the shade.  There were some people around enjoying the sunshine and the water, but it was a long rocky walk to get into the river, clambering over boulders.  We have done worse, but somehow just couldn’t get excited about the whole thing.

We drove around the lake a bit, checking out some of the other launch sites, but with the water lower than last year, the steep brown banks weren’t the least bit enticing, and we decided the day wasn’t a total loss with the lovely picnic we had enjoyed.

We left the boats on the car and within a couple of days decided to make the trip over the mountains back to Rocky Point and our favorite launch site.  It only is about 90 minutes from here to the Rocky Point boat launch.  Not the 5 minutes it used to be for us when we lived there, but definitely worth doing for a beautiful day trip.

The water was still nice and high, and the launch at Rocky Point is so very easy.  We decided to paddle east toward Crystal Creek, thinking that with the high water it would be a great day to take the Wocus Cut back toward Recreation Creek and Rocky Point.

Navigating through the Wocus Cut, deeper than we have ever seen it.

We were right.  It was a lovely paddle, not too hot, not windy, and nice deep water.  The wocus plants were taller than I ever remember seeing them, and the bulrush “tules” were at least 10 feet tall.  A rich, luscious, verdant landscape.  We saw pelicans, an eagle or two, least terns, red winged blackbirds, Canada geese, unidentified ducks, gulls, and some little brown birds that I think were either catbirds or cowbirds.  Who knows, but they sure had a great call.

We paddled about 2 1/2 hours, and Mattie did quite well.  Often after 90 minutes or so she gets restless in the kayak and vocalizes a bit to let us know.  Something I forgot to mention: at the Rogue River she decided that water wasn’t so terrible after all and waded in up to her knees, something she has avoided at all costs in the past.  This time at Rocky Point, she also walked in up to her belly.  She is a great swimmer, but doesn’t like to do it much, so just getting her into the water is fun to see.

By the time we got off the water, it was lunch time and we headed back up the mountain to Fish Lake Resort for lunch on the patio with Mattie.  When we were there last month, we had the MoHo and did our own cooking, but those hamburgers looked really good.  The breezes coming of the lake were cool and lunch was delicious.  Funny thing, though, I asked for some kind of amber beer and they had nothing.  So she offered me a cider and what showed up on the table was something called hard seltzer, lime flavored.  Interesting drink, but I won’t be seeking it out anywhere.

It was just a few more days until our scheduled family trip once again to the northwestern part of Oregon, and we left the kayaks on the car so we would be ready.  In the mean time, however, daughter Deborah had planned a nice adventure for the four of us, Mo and I, Deb and Matthew, with a paddle raft trip on the Rogue River.

We were excited about this and looking forward to checking out the Rogue in a rubber boat that should be good enough to handle the rocks and the rapids.  Deb picked a rafting company that sounded good and had good reviews, and by 9:30 AM on Saturday morning of the 20th we were lined up with lots of other people for our day on the Rogue.

We had a 13 foot 8 inch rubber raft with four paddles, and they hauled us up to the launch point in an old bus.  Along the way, the driver (who was an old river guide) told us to “stay to the left at the first four islands and go to the right at the 5th one”.  He also mentioned that if you get caught in a tree, don’t grab the tree, or the boat will continue downriver and you will be hanging in the tree.  Ok then.  With that little bit of instruction, we launched our boat and piled in.

Now Mo and I have paddled kayaks and canoes, but I haven’t paddled a paddle boat for years, and Matt and Deborah have never paddled much at all.  A few days on a lake in our kayaks doesn’t really count much, as we discovered when we entered the strong, swift current of the Rogue River.

Within minutes we were at the first hard bend in the river, with strong current, rapids, and rocks to avoid, and yes, trees on the shoreline. Sure enough, we ended up right in the trees, with a cut off branch knocking Mo in her rib (yes it is probably broken) and another really big branch almost knocking me out of the boat by my head.  Deb was having visions of her decapitated mother left in the boat.  I managed to slide under the big branch scraping the underside of it with my thick life vest.  Thank goodness.  None of us were knocked out of the boat, but Matt lost his paddle, and Mo was hurting quite a bit.  Not a good way to start 18 miles of river!

I didn’t get too many photos while we were on the river, but I did get this shot of Deborah retrieving the lost paddle that flew by us quite a bit later in a shallow area.  She got it, but not without a bit of a mishap in the strong current and a busted baby finger trying to stay upright.

Taking advantage of a quiet spot as we approached Shady Cove to get a photo

We obviously didn’t know the river, and had a hard time counting islands.  Once we thought we had better go right because the rapids to the left looked too rough, but at the last minute decided to change our minds.  Not a good thing.  We got hung up on a really big rock and it took a LOT of crazy Matthew energy to get us unstuck.  Scary stuff.  The river was really too low in some places and we hung up on the bottom a couple more times before we finished.  Farther downriver things eased up a bit with deeper water and stronger current, and we finally had a few fun rolling rapids that were actually fun, the way rapids are supposed to be.

Another quiet fairly deep spot in the river for a bit of relaxation.

The funniest part of all, only in retrospect, was the constant battle between what each person thought should be done in the way of paddling.  Mo and I had our ideas, we were in the back of the boat, Matthew had his ideas, in the front of the boat, and Deb couldn’t figure out why things didn’t work right the way she expected when she paddled.  Every river paddle needs a boss, someone who knows the river to call the shots and tell people when to dig in and when to turn or stop. 

We stopped in Shady Cove for a break, and made the choice to get back on the river to finish the final 6 miles to the Dodge Bridge takeout, the place where Deborah had arranged for us to be picked up by the rafting company.  18 miles was a good run and it took us about 6 hours to do it.

Each of us had underestimated that river, expecting rolling class 1 and 2 rapids, but not expecting hang-ups,  and really big rocks and hard turns.  Sadly, others underestimated the river as well and just two days later a 54 year old doctor was rafting and fishing with his son, became entangled in an anchor rope for their raft, and died.  It happened near Shady Cove, where we rafted as well.  If we get on that river again, we will be more prepared.  However, we both decided that we will stick to lakes, slow big rivers,  small streams, and estuaries and probably leave the Mighty Rogue to others.

We were all darn hungry by the time we got off the river and really enjoyed dinner at a local Mexican restaurant, had some good laughs, and the river arguments about how to paddle slipped away as we remembered how much fun it had been to share the adventure. Later I made a google map of our route on the river with a few notations of where we ran into the tree and where we got hung up on the rocks.  Just for fun, check it out Rafting the Rogue

We ended our watery month of July with a lovely trip to Cannon Beach with family, but I’m getting rather long winded so I’ll save that for the next story. In the mean time, enjoy this watery photo that I took one evening from the hot tub as I watched the sunset.